BRENTWOOD — A Hooksett man charged with negligent homicide for allegedly causing his friend to fall out of his boat and die in Northwood Lake testified on Friday that investigators coerced him into providing a blood sample to test his blood-alcohol level.
Eric Cable, 34, took the witness stand in Rockingham County Superior Court at the end of a hearing where he challenged the legality of evidence collected by state Marine Patrol officers.
He is headed to trial in December on two counts of negligent homicide for allegedly causing the death of Brendan Yerry, 28, of Hudson.
Yerry died after being struck by the boat’s propeller July 14, 2012, investigators said.
Judge Marguerite Wageling will decide whether Cable’s statements to investigators and blood-alcohol tests, which included a breath test and blood samples, can be used by prosecutors. Cable told a judge on Friday afternoon that a Marine Patrol sergeant who took him into custody for boating while intoxicated never advised him that he had the right to refuse the blood test.
“The only thing he said to me was you didn’t have the right to refuse,” Cable testified. “If you do, we will physically take it from you.”
His claims drew sharp questioning by county prosecutors, who said that investigators twice asked Cable if he would volunteer a blood sample before he allowed it.
“Does that make sense to you? That someone asks for consent then tells you they are going to take it from you?” Assistant County Attorney Jerome Blanchard said.
“I’m just telling you what happened,” Cable replied.
Cable also suggested during his testimony that he underwent field-sobriety tests on ground that made him appear unstable or intoxicated.
“They were conducted on top of a rocky hill,” he testified.
Blanchard said that Cable asked a Marine Patrol officer if he would let him go on the night of his arrest, saying that he wanted to kill himself and feared losing his girlfriend because of Yerry’s death.
“You asked for a break as soon as you were arrested,” Blanchard said.
Cable denied that he asked to be let go.
His sworn statements in court Friday ran counter to testimony provided moments earlier by Marine Patrol Officer Seth Alie and Sgt. Joshua Dirth.
Defense lawyer Peter Anderson argued that Alie solicited statements from Cable while driving him to Concord Hospital for a blood-draw test. Anderson argued that Alie should have first read him his Miranda rights.
“You knew any statements made by the defendant would go into your report, correct? And you engaged him in conversation. In fact, you initiated that conversation,” Anderson said.
Alie testified that he only asked Cable how he was doing once he was in custody because he appeared to be suicidal.
A breath-test done at the lake’s shore just before 9 p.m. concluded that Cable had a blood-alcohol level of .11, according to court testimony.
Blood tests taken hours later at the Concord Police Department placed Cable’s blood-alcohol at .08 around 11:45 p.m.
Cable’s blood-alcohol level then dipped to .04 at 1:30 a.m., and to .02 around 2:30 a.m., according to Anderson.
Dirth testified that Cable offered both a blood sample and his boat after being told that search warrants were being obtained for their investigation.
“His exact words were something to effect (of) take my boat and do whatever you want with it,” Dirth testified.
Fish & Game Lt. James Juneau testified that Cable waived his Miranda rights early in the night and provided a written statement when the case was being treated as a search for Yerry, who had disappeared in the water.
Cable initialed a form saying that he understood his Miranda rights and chose to waive them and speak with investigators, according to Juneau.